Archive for November, 2008

30
Nov
08

Brisbane International 2009.

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In a post about the 2009 ATP schedule I neglected to make reference to a new tournament added to the list of events that will take place January 4th. -11th. in Brisbane, Queensland as the innaugarul of the new Rafter Arena complex. This event has already drawn a number of top players from both the Mens and Womens rosters, and because of its timing is serving as a warm-up event for the Australian Open. An interesting addition to the men’s doubles draw will be the debut at an ATP event of the Djokovic brothers. Seventeen year old Marko will join his brother Novak in the doubles competition. Marko did earn a wild card entry into the Thailand Open earlier in the year where he lost 6-2,6-0 to Jarko Nieminen. Other men who have opted to play in Brisbane are Tsonga, Bahgdatis, Monfils, Gasquet and Fish, and on the lady’s side are Ana Ivanovic and Daniella Hantuchova in the singles competition, and in the doubles the number 1 pair of Cara Black and Liezel Huber.

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30
Nov
08

2009 Grand Slam Winners?

roddick-4federer-41nadal-4Yesterday I posed a question as to the outcome of the 4 major titles in 2009. Would there be a multiple winner? Or is the competition so fierce that we will have 4 different men as winners of the 4 Grand Slams? Forgive me if I submit my own answer to my own question. In case anyone needs to be reminded the 4 tournaments that comprise the Grand Slams are the Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbedon and The US Open.
The French Open that is played at Roland Garros in Paris on red clay, has to be a given for Rafael Nadal. He is the most dominanant clay court player to ever step onto a court and there is no other player who can come close to beating him. So 1 to Rafa!
Wimbledon was owned by Federer until he lost in an epic match to Rafa in 2008. It was no fluke that Rafa won, both players were at their best, but this year Andy Murray is being touted by the British press as the potential winner. It would be a cinderella story if he won the title, the first Brit in a zillion years to win any title let alone Wimbledon, but I don’t think it will happen in 2009. Murray is not yet strong enough physically to withstand the gruelling task of winning back to back long tough 5 set matches. and with the pressure of the crowd watching his every stroke the emotional pressure might be too much for any player to handle. One player who has the game to win Wimbledon, but has failed every year so far, is Andy Roddick. He has the serve and the volleys, he has the experience, and he has a new winning coach, a man who has guided two other players to Grand Slam titles. I expect Roddick to do well in 2009, but I’m going back to Federer to win Wimbledon again. So 1 to Roger!
I’m picking Roddick to win the US Open. He won here before, and he plays his best tennis in New York. He loves to be at home, he relishes the crowd noise and the press attention, and he is less nervous than he seems to be at other venues. So 1 to Andy!
The Australian Open is wide open. Novak Djokovic will defend the title he won in 2008, when he beat Tsonga in the final. The conditions in Melbourne in January are such a change for the players who arrive from cooler climates, that just about anything can happen on the courts. The surface is not has hard as a true ‘hard’ court, but the surface temperature can rise well into the low hundreds making it tough on the feet. The winner here will be the player who has the ‘luck’ of the draw, the player who makes his way to the final without having spent all his energy, and the player who is the fittest. That player is Rafa! So 2 to Rafa!
What do you think?

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30
Nov
08

Ana’s new home?

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My guess is that Ana Ivanovic is a smart business woman who has decided that investing in property during the world’s economic downturn, is simply a sound idea. Why else would she buy a home in Spain with 5 bedrooms? Yes, Son Vida Mallorca is warmer than Belgrade, and yes, she has been taking Spanish lessons for a while, and yes, she has been dating a cute Spanish guy, so why not spread her wings and buy her first modest home? Surprisingly it doesn’t have a tennis court in the backyard, but then she might have more on her mind than tennis at the moment.
She’s been out shopping too, and has a guy tagging along with her to carry her bags, I wonder if he will move into the house or maybe he’ll just cut the grass!

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29
Nov
08

Will any player win more than one Grand Slam in 2009?

federer-3Along with the majority of avid tennis followers I have to admit that I’m a huge Roger Federer fan. I was a lukewarm fan when he won the Wimbledon Junior crown at the age of 17, but became a drooling disciple when he beat Pete Sampras, the defending Wimbledon champion, in his first try in the main draw at the age of 19. He lost in the following year then went on to win 5 in a row. A feat he repeated at the US Open in August, the only player to accomplish this feat in 84 years since Bill Tilden did it back in the nineteen thirties.
To me, it was the way he won the Open, rather than the fact that he did win. It was the semifinal match with Novak Djokovic that opened my eyes to the fact that Roger was back on form. For the first time since his bout with mononucleosis he played like the old Roger we admire and love. He was sharp, quick around the court, graceful, imaginative with his shots, and intuitive with his shot selection. All the attributes that have made him the best player to ever play the game, and the skills that have been missing for the entire 2008 season. Sure he made a few finals, won a couple of tournaments, he can still beat most players when he’s only playing about 95% efficiently, but it hurt to watch him lose so often and to play so poorly. He didn’t look sharp in The Master’s Cup in Shanghai as he lost to both Murray and Simon, but I believe that he is a better player than Nadal on every surface other than clay, and I expect that over the duration of the season, he will be in a battle with Rafa, Nole and Andy Murray to establish himself as the number 1 player in 2009. It has been a long time since we have had so many players with nearly equal skills at the top of the rankings.
Roger will kick off the 2009 season at the Australian Open where he will be seeded second, and if everything goes according to plan he could meet Murray in the semifinal,a repeat of the very one-sided 2008 US Open final.
Roger is chasing Sampras for the most Single Grand Slam titles, he’s one behind, and now with the effects of the mono virus behind him the odds must be in his favour to pass Sampras in 2009. Judging by his performance in New York it is apparent that he has regained his game and his confidence, which is wonderful news for his fans, but not such good news for his competitors.
He seems to have been around for ever but he’s only 27, he’s earned more than $43 million in prize money, and heaven knows how much with endorsements. It could be a sign of age because he recently admitted to having some thoughts about his future after his tennis career ends. He is deeply involved with his Foundation, and has briefly contemplated marriage and becoming a Father. He actually said, “I have started to think about the future more seriously, things like family and marriage have crossed my mind.”
He’s always positive, and said about his performance in 2008, “I had a good year, 3 titles including a major.” For any other player he would be correct, but from Roger we expect much more.

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29
Nov
08

Serena wins big in Africa.

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serena-7Serena Williams won the hearts and the gratitude of the children of the Makueni District of Kenya when she opened the Serena Williams Secondary School. It is her first charity project in Kenya, and in a courtesy visit with Prime Minister Raila Odinga she promised to more in the future. While in Kenya she visited the Sadili Oval Sports Club where she provided tennis tuition to a group of enthusiastic African Tennis prospects.
In an intimate heart felt statement, Serena has expressed her feelings about her charity work and her motivation for the Foundation’s work which bears her name, “I thought to myself as I toured Africa, what can I do? Then I thought to myself, I have finally found my calling, I have finally found my love. I love education. I love helping people, and I love seeing people succeed. I want this to be a better place for tomorrow. Therefore I am building a school in Senegal that will allow kids to attend school for free. This school will be controlled by my Foundation. These kids will have a chance to be the best that they can be and more. What is most important is that these kids will have a chance, and that’s what matters the most.”
I like her motivating thought for the day, ‘Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated.’

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29
Nov
08

Make mine a Double Martina!

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A name is a name is a name. Two great players share a common name. Both are the same, yet are so different. One born in Czechoslovakia and the other in Switzerland, each has left an indelible mark on Womens tennis. Both were great singles and doubles players, both played with their heads as well as with their hands and feet, and both in their individual ways will be remembered for their contribution to the game, when so many others are long forgotten. The legendary accomplishments of Martina Navratilova will never be equalled, the tennis records she owns will probably stand forever, and when people in the distant future discuss the greatest Women athletes of any sport, the name of Martina Navratilova will always come to mind. Her career spanned two generations of tennis players, she was the Number One player for 7 years. She dominated her sport, and is still playing on the World Team Tennis circuit as a guest celebrity. This elder Martina won 18 singles and 41 doubles Grand Slam titles, including a record 9 Wimbledons. Over the course of her long career she won 167 singles titles and 178 doubles titles. It seems unbelievable that when we talk about the new crop of players who reach the top ten in the world, we praise them for winning 2 or 3 titles or their first Grand Slam when in the same breath we talk about Navratilova who won 345 titles!

The younger of the two Martinas, rose to the top of the rankings when she was barely out of diapers, and when she thought a training bra was some kind of pet that needed tuition. She won her first Grand Slam title when she was sweet sixteen in Australia, she was the youngest Wimbledon winner ever, and was the youngest player to reach the top ranked spot. She won a total of 14 Grand Slam titles and remained at the top for 4 years. Always ready to share a joke or speak her mind, she became a controversial figure on and off the tennis court, and although banned from participating in competitive tennis she still heads up Team Hingis in charity and celebrity events. She is a friend of Anna Kournikova, and the two of them make a remarkably glamorous pair. She brought her own brand of magic to the tennis court, and although she never possessed any over powering shots, her selection of beautifully placed shots dominated her competitors. Like her namesake she had soft hands and the knack of being able to play the right shot at the right time, her volleys were exceptional which is one of the reasons she was so good at doubles, but as good as she was she did not compare to the volleying expertise of the older Martina. But then nobody did. I have checked the records but have been unable to find an occasion when they played against each other. Maybe now that they are both retired they will meet in a friendly celebrity match.

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28
Nov
08

The ATP schedule for January 2009.

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For the men who compete as professionals on the ATP tour, and are required to enter and play in all four Grand Slam events plus at least another 9 events over the course of the year, a decision has to be made as to where they will play. They must consider the timing of each event, as playing back to back tournaments should they be fortunate to make the final, would be exhausting. They also have to be aware of which other players will be competing. Sometimes the chance of placing in the money at a smaller tournament is considerably better than losing in the early rounds of a much larger tournament. They know they have to be in Melbourne for the 2009 Australian Open no later than January 19th., and preferable a couple of days ahead of time to get acclimated.

There are 5 ATP tour events scheduled for the month of January in addition to the Open. Two are held in Australia, and one each in New Zealand, India and Qatar. Here are their choices, and the details of the 2008 results.

The Adelaide tournament starts on December 31st. and runs through January 6th. Prize money is $465,000. The 2008 winner was Frenchman Michael Llodra who beat Jarkko Neiminen of Finland 6-3, 6-4 in 77 minutes. Adelaide is home to Lleyton Hewitt who describes the city as, “a small friendly place that provides a warm intimate atmosphere. It has great restaurants, wonderful beaches, and is home to the Adelaide Crows football team.

Some players prefer to remain in Australia and move over to Sydney to play there in the Medibank International tournament which starts on January 12th., winds up on January 18th. and allows sufficient time to proceed on to the Open in Melbourne. Sydney is Australia’s largest city, famous for the Opera house, the Harbour, the beaches and its cosmopolitan atmosphere. In 2008 Russian Dmitry Tursanov won his fourth ATP title with a win over Australian wild card player Chris Guccione 7-6, 7-6, in a match which had the home crowd on the edge of their seats for the entire two hours.

For the players who skip the Sydney tournament and choose to play in Auckland New Zealand, this event’s dates are January 12th. – 17th. Auckland is ranked as one of the best cities in the world to live in, it has everything to offer from its Polynesian culture to its sophisticated modern panorama of fine restaurants, entertainment and sports. The Heineken Open was won by Phillip Kohlschreiber over Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6, 7-5, a first time winner from Germany of this event.

Two other tournaments are scheduled for the same week in early January, the Qatar Open and the Chennai Open in India. Prize money in Qatar is $1 million(probably the reason for the competitive field in 2009), and for Chennai $436,000. The Qatar Exxon/mobil tournament was won by Andy Murray in 2008 over Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. The Chennai event was won by Russian Mikhail Youzhny over Rafael Nadal 6-0, 6-1, a surprising result to say the least.

It’s a tough choice for the players, but building confidence and getting in shape is of the utmost importance if they expect to do well in the 2009 Australian Open.

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28
Nov
08

Spain’s Davis Cup Heroes honoured by el Pesidente.

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Judging from the look on Rafael Nadal’s face he’s still experiencing some disbelief over his buddies win over Argentine. He was on hand to join with Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer, on a day when all of Spain showered the winners with accolades and applause. It was a day when tennis took its place alongside soccer, cycling, motor racing and bull fighting, as one of the sports in which Spain has risen to become a world power, and in an event where they played without the best player in the world. Emillio Sanchez, the Spanish coach announced his retirement as the coach of the Davis Cup team, and has reccommended Alberto Costa to succeed him.

I would like to suggest that they also hire a good Italian clothes designer to make them better suits, a barber to trim their hair, and a couple of the ‘ball-girls’ from Madrid to add a little media appeal.

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27
Nov
08

Will the 2009 season be the Last Hurrah for Andy Roddick?

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Is Andy’s dream of becoming a serious contender again in a Grand Slam event over, or does he have one last chance at the upcoming 2009 Australian Open? He lost in the 3rd. round to virtually unknown Kohlschreiber in 2008, which as well as being a bitter disappointment to him, also set him back for most of the season. It is a pattern of badly played matches against competitors that on paper he should beat with ease, that has haunted Andy since his meteoritic climb into the top ten six years ago. A position he has retained ever since. He possesses the fastest serve in tennis today, not necessarily the best service, and he has a forehand that is as good as that of any player on the tour. He’s fit, he works hard, he is well liked both on and off the court, and he has had some of the best coaches working in his camp. So wherein lies the problem?
Anybody who watches tennis knows just by looking at Andy on the court that he appears to be a nervous wreck. Maybe its just the way he is every day, but as he twitches his neck, or hoists his shirt up off his shoulders, or tugs on his hat, it is apparent that he is rushed, and far from relaxed. Maybe his engagement to swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker will help to calm him down, or at least provide an extra motivating presence.
After losing to Federer time and time again he did eventually beat him in 2008, but then a lot of players beat Federer in 2008. He also beat Nadal and Djokovic, but was badly beaten by Djokovic on his home court at the US Open in front of his thousands of raucous fans. He just competed in Barcelona against Spain in the Davis Cup where he was beaten in 5 sets by David Ferrer.
Does the American press expect too much from him? Just because he is the highest ranked American player, currently 6th., is he expected to be another Sampras, or an Agassi or even a McEnroe? Could it be that this expectation of greatness from the outside applies so much pressure from within on Andy that he doesn’t even play up to his own capabilities all of the time. Maybe its like having Big Brother watching and criticizing. If he wins a regular tour event it is a non-news item, kind of counts for nothing anymore, he is expected to win the ‘Big’ one. After all, he did it once before. He has referred to this complex as the Neil Armstrong syndrome saying, “After you’ve been to the moon, what else is there?” Maybe the Australian Open will be his second Grand Slam win, or if it isn’t, will it be the end of Andy’s quest?
Off the court Andy’s AR Foundation is providing meals and help to underpriviliged kids, people less fortunate than himself and most of us who support him, and this work that comes from his generous heart maybe of more importance to him than ‘winning’ another tennis event.

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27
Nov
08

Betting on a sure-fired Winner.

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I figure that a bet on the winner of the 2020 World Cup of Soccer should get me odds of at least 100:1, or a bet on the winner of 2020 Baseball World Series should get me odds of at least 250:1, I’m ready to place a bet of $100 on the winner of the 2020 Australian Open Tennis Tournament if someone will give me odds of 500:1. Obviously it will not be a player who is currently a member of the ATP tour; 12 years from now Federer will be closing in on 40, Nadal will be 34, and all the young guns of today will have passed their primes and be over 30! My bet must be on a player who has yet to decide whether or not he will even want to play tennis, let alone becoming a champion, should he decide to play. Maybe 500:1 is not enough!
I’m a firm believer in genetics when it comes to sports. I also believe that being good at a particular sport for many individuals just happened to a choice made by circumstance rather than initial desire. What I mean by that is that most excellent athletes could be the best at any sport they chose to specialize in. For instance, I believe a great tennis player could also have been equally good at golf or cycling or cricket, if he or she had decided to put the same energy into learning that sport. So it follows that if Mum and Dad were exceptional athletes, Super Stars, or Olympic champions, then their offspring have a similar chance of being exceptional athletes. Just read the biographies of the top players in any sport, many of them have parents who excelled in one sport or another, but not necessarily the one in which the son or daughter pursued.
If my parents just happened to be two of the best tennis players that ever played the game of tennis, that between the two of them won 30 Grand Slams, 8 of those in Australia, 175 career singles titles, 2 individual Olympic Gold medals, and combined earnings approaching $55 million, then I would have to say that genetically the odds are in my favour that I will become a great tennis player in my own right. Now maybe Mum and Dad will decide that they don’t want either their son or daughter following in the family tradition, but knowing how competitive each of them was when they were active players, I would bet that seeing one of their kids standing on the podium as their country’s flag is raised, or seeing the hoisting of the Cup at the Australian Open would be such magic moment of satisfaction that neither of them as parents would not find it overwhelming. I’m betting it happens in 2020.
Jaren Gil Agassi was born in 2001, just do the math and you’ll figure out that he’ll be 19 when the 2020 Aussie Open rolls around. The perfect age! Maybe his kid sister Jaz Elle will prove to be recipient of the family’s genetic heritage, if so I’ll add her to my exacta ticket!

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